Our little taste of fall has disappeared. It seems the summertime temps and unrelenting humidity just aren't ready to pack up and go away. But since September is almost over (when did that happen?) cooler weather can't be too far away, right?
If you ever need to put your life in perspective, just attend the breakfast for O'Brien House, which serves adult recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. It was a packed house for the 15th annual fundraiser Sept. 13 at the Crowne Plaza. Board President Chris Suba and Executive Director Todd Hamilton started the morning by recognizing former member Bobbie Carey as this year's breakfast's honorary chairwoman.
Amy Strother, who chaired this year's fundraiser, then asked for a show of hands of attendees who have lost a loved one to drugs or alcohol. The response was overwhelming.
Opioid addiction in our city has reached epidemic levels. Realizing one of the best ways to stem the tide is to reach out to young people before they get involved with drugs, O'Brien House initiated an essay contest for high school students. The winners were Garrett Byrne, a senior at the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, first place; Anna Cattar, a ninth-grader at Central High School, second place; and Layla Michelle Carnes, a ninth-grader at Central High School, third place. Byrne got a check for $1,000 for his essay, the story of watching his parents descend into addiction to heroin and methamphetamines, leading to his removal from the home. His strength and eloquence in relaying his journey, which does have a happy ending, brought a standing ovation.
They came in wearing pink ties and pink shirts, one had a pink suit and one a pink boa — hey, that's my signature look! They are "real men" who are going all pink for the American Cancer Society's Real Men Wear Pink Campaign, which kicked off Sept. 14 at a meet-and-greet at Kalurah Street Grille. Its purpose is to educate men that breast cancer isn't something that just affects women. Each year, thousands of men in the United States are diagnosed with the disease.
Accepting the mission to raise awareness of this statistic as well as money for research and be declared the No. 1 Man in Pink are Melvin Abbott, Tim Barfield, Tommy Bell, Ray Belton, Roger Cador, Tim Crockett, John Davis, Ryan Haynie, T-Bob Hebert, Jordy Hultberg, state Rep. Ted James, Mickey and S.J. Montalbano, Mike O'Neal, Chad Sabadie, Mark Staley, Keith Stark, Leo Verde, Brad Watts, Steve Webb and Clay Young. Go online to vote for your guy at acsevents.org/site/TR/MakingStridesAgainstBreastCancer/MSABCCY17MS?pg=entry&fr_id=85092
Hall of Fame
My next stop was just down the street at Juban's, where the LSU Manship School of Mass Communications was holding its 43rd annual Hall of Fame Gala. This year's honorees are internationally known photographer Marie Constantin; Lou Gehrig Burnett, a veteran Washington, D.C., communications chief, political pundit and independent publisher; and Alex Martin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and editor at the Wall Street Journal.
Also recognized at the event was alumnus Darin Mann, who received the T.C. Shield Award for Outstanding Alumni Service from Manship Dean Jerry Ceppos.
Constantin is a native of Hartford, Connecticut, but has called Baton Rouge home for more than 35 years after moving here to attend LSU. She became internationally known as a photographer when the Vatican chose one of her photos of Mother Teresa of Calcutta to hang in St. Peter's Square for Mother Teresa's 2003 beatification ceremony. During coverage of the celebration, Charles Osgood did a 6-minute feature on the piece for "CBS Sunday Morning" that also showed more than 25 additional photos Constantin shot over a 13-year period with Mother Teresa.
Burnett is a native of Houma and graduated from LSU with a master's degree in journalism in 1965. He served as press secretary to U.S. Rep. Edward Hebert, of New Orleans, for 11 years before joining the staff of U.S. Rep. Jerry Huckaby, for whom he worked for 16 years.
Martin is a native of New Orleans and graduated from LSU with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1981. He joined the staff of the Wall Street Journal in 2005 and by 2012 was on the masthead as deputy managing editor of page one. This past January, as the paper shifted its efforts to become a digital-first news organization, it turned to Martin to help drive the shift as editor for news.
The gala was chaired by Randy Hayden and Marica Valhos. Committee members included Ernie Ballard, Chris Bailey, Tristi Charpentier, Chelsea Costanza, Emily Davenport, Bob Johannessen, Venessa Lewis, Nancy Malone, Bill Sherman and Mann.
When you think of attorneys, art is not the first thing that pops into your mind. But, maybe it should be. Baton Rouge has some very talented lawyers, and their artwork is on display at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge's Firehouse Gallery until the end of this month.
I was able to get a first peek along with 100-plus others at the opening reception last Thursday. Arts Judicata is a joint project of the Arts Council and the Baton Rouge Bar Association.
I knew my friend Gracella Simmons had an artistic bent, and the note cards she created only proved my point. I also knew former BRBA employee Pamela Labbe had some of her works previously on exhibit. But others — Robert Collins, Chuck Davoli and Judge Shelly Dick — were surprises. The exhibit also included works by Antonio Ferachi, Loren Shanklin Fleshman, John Gallagher, Roxie Goynes, Stephan Massero, Kent Moroux, Lori Nunn, Mallory Richard, Mary Roper, Randy Roussel, John Russell and Richard Williams.
Of course, art isn't just about painting and sculpture. Several local attorneys are also fairly successful authors. Van Mayhall, Mike Rubin and Kim Spruill were selling their latest novels. Entertaining guests were lawyer/musicians Grant Guillot, Jim Standley and Jamie Gurt.
Red Jacket Weekend
City Year Baton Rouge celebrated its 12th year of service in Louisiana with a weekend of events that began with a brunch Sept. 15 at The Trademark on Third. And, there was lots to celebrate.
This year City Year has its largest corps to date. Some 101 AmeriCorps members are serving in 13 Baton Rouge schools and impacting more than 5,000 students on a daily basis. Those schools include Istrouma High, Broadmoor High, Broadmoor Middle, Capitol Middle, Melrose Elementary, Merrydale Elementary, Celerity Crestworth, Celerity Dalton, Celerity Lanier, Democracy Prep, Kenilworth Science & Technology, Baton Rouge Bridge Academy and Baton Rouge College Prep.
Sharing their personal stories were corps members Margaret Craig, 23, from Lubbock, Texas, who is serving for a second year at Istrouma; and Jasmine Walker, 21, of Baton Rouge, who is serving with the Lamar Advertising Co. Team at Democracy Prep. I got to sit next to a charming 25-year-old young man named Steven Probst, from Baltimore, Maryland. He was here last year and saw first-hand what the floods did to our city and schools, so he wanted to come back and get to work with his students now that they are back in their own schools. How lucky we are as a community to have these dedicated young people positively impacting our children and their education.
As Mayor Sharon Weston-Broome summed up so well in thanking them, "You epitomize what service is all about."
From brunch I went to lunch with Friendship Force of Baton Rouge at the Woman's Club. They were hosting an exchange group from Bogota, Columbia. My table mates had taken the visitors on several tours in the area, including the State Capitol where they were lucky enough to have a tour guide who spoke fluent Spanish show them around the historic building. No one knows the name of the state employee who was so gracious, but if you read this and it was you, or if anyone knows her identity, please pass along a huge "gracias" from the group.
After everyone's tummies were full, the Bogota gang entertained everyone with dances from their country. They were gearing up to attend "Live After Five" later that afternoon. I'm thinking they'll be coming back to Baton Rouge ASAP.
The week ended with an open house at the Cangelosi Dance Project. Kris Cangelosi has enlisted a group of former Star Dancers and professionals from Dancing for Big Buddy and Dancing for a Cause who just weren't ready to hang up their dancing shoes. She's given us the title of Community Leaders Dancers and choreographed several dances for us to perform two or three times a year. I know, right?
Several of the ladies in this group entertained at the Sept. 17 open house, which also featured performances by members of Cangelosi's competitive dance team. We will not be dancing with these talented girls!
Anyway, I'll be joining the Community Leaders entourage in the Dec. 22 performance, which takes place at 7 p.m. at the Manship Theatre. A post-performance gala follows.